May is mental health awareness month. And since I'm a psychology geek, I've decided to spend this month discussing this topic and its relevance to all of us.
Let me ask you. How many of these statements are true for you?
As you reflect on your responses to the questions above, consider this definition of mental health from the CDC.
"Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act... Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same things."
Work encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, or mental health.
Embedded in our choice of profession are psychological needs (e.g., self-esteem). Social well-being informs our pick of where we work. And emotionally taxing workplaces (a.k.a., toxic environments) receive scathing reviews on Glassdoor by disillusioned current and former employees.
In the late 1950s, Herzberg studied motivation in the workplace. He concluded that it is ineffective to view dissatisfaction and satisfaction as a single continuum because resolving issues that create dissatisfaction only lessens dissatisfaction. The actions required to increase satisfaction are separate and distinct. Decades later, the work on employee engagement by the Gallup Organization supported this conclusion.
The following table presents the top seven factors causing dissatisfaction and the top six factors causing satisfaction, listed in the order of higher to lower importance. [source]
Leading to satisfaction
Herzberg's theory is vital to our discussion about mental health because it emphasizes the need for parallel work paths. To provide a healthy culture where everyone can be their best self and maximize their contribution, one must minimize the dissatisfiers and increase the satisfiers.
There's a wonderful story in The Power of Moments (Heath, 2017) about a woman who dreams of opening a bakery, but after the stress of making cakes to meet her client's expectations, she begins to lose joy for the craft and closes her business. This story supports Herzberg's theory; the motivation to continue to work so hard wasn't possible. It was a lot of responsibility without much recognition, and the work itself was less satisfying with each cake she made. [BTW, the woman celebrates her decision to close her business and hasn't baked a cake since.]
Decisions to walk away from what makes us unhappy to pursue a path of happiness is choosing mental health. So is permitting yourself to create or receive whatever is needed to improve your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Here are some questions to guide you. Be brutally honest in your answers.
Mental Health Check
You know I'm all about work being a place for joy and passion to abound. So let me know if you need help getting back to that place.